In Korea, drinking alcohol and eating go hand in hand. Alcohol is almost always served and enjoyed with snacks or side dishes called anju. These dishes are often savory and/or spicy like spicy fried chicken or squid, but nuts and fruit are also popular anju.
It is a requirement to order anju with drinks at many Korean bars, clubs, and karaoke places. Until recently, soju was the social drink of choice, but now beer, wine, and brand name hard liquors are also popular. You will need to know what to expect for your evening out in Korea or to a local Korean bar in your area.
If you are hosting guests at your home for a Korean-themed meal or evening, you may want to provide anju along with the beverages before or after a meal. For the simplest offerings, you can use things you have in your pantry. For others, you may need a trip to an international grocer or to make them yourself with a recipe.
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Nuts, Fruit, and Finger Foods
Similar to "beer and nuts" in America, nuts are also a popular and easy anju in Korea. Like the bowl of free popcorn or pretzels on the bar, salty snacks pair nicely with beer and soju. Many Koreans claim salty foods help to absorb the alcohol.
Fruit is another popular anju, and fresh fruit plates are common in bars and nightclubs. A blend of dried fruit and nuts is another anju. Since there are many soju drinks that use fruits like strawberries, lemons, oranges, and apples, fruit is a good complement to soju cocktails.
Other finger foods like sweet dried squid or dried anchovies and nuts are served as anju as well. Sometimes you will be served a huge array of salty and sweet chips, Korean shrimp crackers, and sweet treats as anju snacks.
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Savory and Fried Foods
Savory foods are probably the most popular type of anju, but that's mostly because anju is flexible. The most common savory anju dishes are things that are served pre-portioned like pa jun (and other jun), fried chicken, and soondae (Korean blood sausage). Since many people prefer to have a little grease with their alcohol, pan-fried and deep-fried foods (like French fries) are often at the top of the list on Korean bar menus. One regular notes that you don't want to linger over the fried foods as they get soggy pretty quickly. They are best ordered when you want something to eat right away.
White rice and soup are the only things that you will probably never see as anju, although almost all other savory Korean dishes can be acceptable anju.
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Spicy Dishes and Strong Flavors
This category could also be used to describe a lot of Korean food, so it should be no surprise that Koreans also love spicy and robust flavors in their anju. Spicy anju goes well with soju. But be careful, as it's not for the faint of stomach.
Popular anju with lots of spice include raw spicy crab, spicy stir-fried squid or octopus, spicy rice cakes and fish cakes (dukboki) and sauteed kimchi with tofu (dubu kimchi).